Once Upon a Wine (Black Dog Bay)

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9781520014975: Once Upon a Wine (Black Dog Bay)
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Just when Cammie Breyer thinks she’s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She’s bought a vineyard―in Delaware. At Ginger’s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat. The three women unite, determined to succeed. There’s only one little problem: None of them know the first thing about wine making. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth the wait.

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About the Author:

Author of twelve women's fiction novels, including the Black Dog Bay series and 'Nearlyweds', which was turned into a Hallmark Channel original movie. Loves rescue dogs, red wine, and the Chicago Cubs. To find out more, please visit www.bethkendrick.com and www.facebook.com/BethKendrickBooks

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2016 Beth Kendrick

Chapter 1

“Bold and bruising, but that’s how I like it—almost aggressive.” Cammie Breyer played with her hair and gazed down at a pair of handsome men wearing five-thousand-dollar suits and Italian silk ties. “No regrets. No apologies. It’ll be a sensual roller coaster.” She let that image sink in, then lowered her voice to a husky murmur. “But you have to be ready for it. Are you ready?”

The two titans of industry glanced at each other, neither wanting to show weakness. The older one cleared his throat.

Cammie leaned in. “Yes?”

He looked down, then back up at her. “It’s really going to be that great?”

She leaned closer, knowing her skin looked smooth and supple in the candlelight. “Spine tingling.”

The men exchanged another glance. “We’ll go for it.”

“You won’t be sorry.” She straightened, but not before batting her heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “I’ll be right back.”

Cammie suppressed a grin as she sashayed away from the corner table at Clover and Thorn, the hippest new restaurant in West Hollywood. The bottle of cabernet her customers had just ordered cost six hundred dollars.

Please, please, please tip twenty percent.

She felt her cell phone buzz in the pocket of the black skirt she wore as part of her uniform along with an off-the-shoulder red blouse and precariously high black pumps. Before she could sneak off to the kitchen to check her texts, her coworker pulled her aside.

“What did you do to those guys over there?” Pamela whispered, craning her neck to get a better look at the industry players in the power suits. “They looked like you were propositioning them.”

“I was just hustling the Araujo cabernet.”

“Yeah? What’d you say?”

Cammie started laughing. “I told them it was spine tingling.”

“You did not.”

“I sure did. Right after I told them it was bruising and aggressive.”

Pamela started laughing, too. “You’re going to win the pool this month, for sure.” Clover and Thorn’s employees contributed each week to a jackpot that was awarded to the server who used the most outrageous terminology when upselling customers on the wine list. Last month, the assistant manager had won by describing a Syrah as a “tattooed bodice ripper.”

“Here’s hoping.” Cammie’s smile faded. “You know why I’m hustling like the rent is due?”

Pamela tilted her head. “Because the rent is due?”

“It was due two weeks ago. I need four hundred dollars by the end of the night, or my landlord’s going to kick me out.”

“Well, that’s the great thing about LA.” Pamela, who had been trying to land a screenwriting agent for more than a year, looked determinedly cheerful. “You can always find another apartment or another waitressing job.”

Cammie rubbed her forehead. “I don’t want another waitressing job. I don’t even want this one.” Her phone buzzed in her skirt pocket again. She turned and headed for the wine cellar. On the way, even though it was against the rules, she glanced at the text from her cousin Kat on the screen:

Ginger snapped.

Cammie stopped in her tracks. A busboy barreled through the kitchen doors and cursed at her as he narrowly avoided knocking her over.

“Cammie.”

She looked back up, flushing as she realized that Sergio, the restaurant’s managing partner, had witnessed her cell phone transgression. He shot her a death glare from three tables away and lifted his chin toward the couple who had just been seated in her section.

Cammie tucked her phone back into her pocket and approached the guests with the wine list in hand. When the woman in the skintight black dress made eye contact, Cammie tried to read her expression. Diners in this part of town at this time of night wanted one of two attitudes: shameless fawning or brazen familiarity.

She had less than a second to make the determination, so she went with her gut and spun the wine list on the table with a flick of her wrist. “Looks like someone’s ready for a drink.”

The dining companions exchanged wry smiles. The man said, “Next time we buy a house, I’m bringing a flask to closing.”

“You bought a house?” Cammie saw her opening. “Time to celebrate. May I suggest champagne? The Selosse blanc de blanc is exquisite.”

“I don’t know.” The man with dazzling teeth and an action-figure jawline frowned. “Champagne is too sweet for my taste.”

“Not this. You’ll love this,” Cammie assured him. And then, because everybody wanted what they couldn’t have, she added, “It’s dry and, um, loquacious. And almost impossible to get. We have one bottle left, and our supplier says he doesn’t think we’ll ever get more.”

“We’ll take it,” both diners chorused.

“Excellent choice.” Cammie straightened as her phone buzzed yet again. “I’ll give you a few minutes to look at the dinner menu, and I’ll be back to answer any questions.” She excused herself and took the long way to the kitchen, hoping that the dim lighting and crowded dining area would shield her from Sergio’s eagle eyes.

Another text from her cousin Kat: I knew this day would come and now it has. CALL ME.

Across the room, she saw the guests who had just ordered the cabernet trying to signal her. She pretended not to notice and darted toward the kitchen.

“Cammie!” Sergio called after her as she dashed through the swinging doors and past the line cooks.

She ignored him. In the twenty seconds it took to make it through the kitchen, past the storage refrigerators, and out the back door to the dark, fetid alley, she received several more texts:

SOS

911

OMG

WTF

IWFTF

Wrinkling her nose against the stench from the Dumpster, Cammie dialed Kat’s number and pressed the phone to her ear.

“Finally!” Kat yelled by way of greeting.

“What does ‘IWFTF’ mean?” Cammie shot back.

“It stands for ‘I weep for the future.’” Her cousin sounded distraught. “Take a good long look at the world as you know it, because everything’s about to go to hell.”

Cammie glanced back over her shoulder at the smog, the traffic, the unattainable dreams, and the absurdly overpriced real estate—including the crappy apartment she couldn’t afford anymore. “What did Ginger do now? And hurry up, because I’m at work and I kind of went AWOL.”

“You’re asking the wrong question,” Kat said. “The question you should be asking is, What didn’t Ginger do?”

Cammie clenched her teeth in frustration. “Okay, what didn’t she do?”

“She didn’t die, for starters.”

“Hey.” Sergio slammed open the door and glowered at Cammie. “Get back in here right now, or don’t bother coming back at all.”

Cammie pointed to the phone with a pleading expression and mouthed, “Emergency.” To her cousin, she murmured, “Kat, you’re going to have to get to the point.”

Kat launched into a diatribe, starting with the words “the doctor” and ending with the words “nothing left.”

“Wait, what? You cut out,” Cammie said.

“Now,” Sergio snapped. Cammie had never noticed the vein in his forehead. She knew this was her last chance to finish her shift and salvage any chance at making rent.

But she had always put family first. Maybe because she had hardly any family left.

“You’re fired!” Sergio yelled.

“Oh shit,” Kat said. “You’re fired?”

“Apparently.” Cammie turned her back on her boss and focused on her cousin. “Please tell me this conversation is worth it.”

“You know I wouldn’t say this if it weren’t a dire emergency, but you need to book a flight to come out here. Right now.”

“Why? Spit it out.”

Kat’s laugh sounded unhinged and unsettling. “You know a lot about wine, right?”

“Not really. I just throw out a bunch of SAT words and hope no one asks any questions.” Cammie had to cover one ear as car horns honked.

“So you can sweet-talk a sour grape?”

Cammie was certain she’d misheard. “What?”

“You need to get on a plane, Cam. Tonight. This is not a drill.”


Chapter 2

“This is crazy. Who buys a vineyard?” Cammie hugged her cousin at the Baltimore airport baggage claim. “In Delaware, of all places?”

“My mother, that’s who.” Kat hugged back, her wiry arms surprisingly strong. With her petite frame, sparkling blue eyes, and choppy red hair, Kat was often mistaken for a delicate flower. Until people noticed the scar tissue and multiple piercings. “Someone needs to talk some sense into her.”

“Well, I don’t know why you called me.” Cammie stepped back and regarded her cousin. Growing up, Kat had been a tomboy, her knees constantly scraped and her face perpetually smudged. While Cammie had preferred reading and crafts, Kat had been in motion from the moment she got up to the moment she finally crashed for the night. As she’d progressed from a daredevil child to a sarcastic adolescent to a strong, fearless woman, she’d managed to channel all that intensity and adrenaline into a career as a professional skateboarder. Kat had corporate sponsors, devoted fans, an agent, and a publicist—or at least she had, until six months ago. At thirty-three, Kat had officially retired from the sport because of a torn knee ligament and a spinal injury.

“Delaware vineyard.” Cammie spotted her huge maroon suitcase and heaved it off the conveyor belt. “Is that a real thing? I’ve heard of wine from California, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Washington State, even Virginia. But not Delaware.”

“There’s at least one Delaware vineyard, and my mother is the proud owner.”

Cammie still couldn’t process this information. “I have so many questions. Like, how? When? And, most of all, why?”

Kat swatted Cammie aside so she could do the heavy lifting.

“Stop that.” Cammie tried to wrestle the suitcase away from her cousin, to no avail. “You have a bad knee and a bad back.”

“And I still strength train three days a week.” Kat looked ready to bench-press the suitcase to prove her prowess.

“Really? Does your orthopedist know that?”

“No, and he never will.” Kat started toward the exit, lugging the bag behind her.

Cammie hurried to keep pace, and forced herself to ask the question she’d been pondering for the duration of the five-hour flight. “Vineyards are kind of expensive, aren’t they?”

Kat glanced back over her shoulder. “You can take the ‘kind of’ out of that sentence.”

“Then how is this happening?” Cammie was hoping that perhaps there had been a misunderstanding somewhere along the way. “Did Ginger suddenly come into an inheritance or a lawsuit settlement or something?”

Kat’s expression was grim. “Nope.”

“Then how . . . ?”

“It’s better if she explains the whole thing.”

“Give me a hint,” Cammie urged. “It’s a long drive.”

“Hint one: She cashed out her pension and her retirement accounts.”

Cammie stopped walking so she could devote all her energy to freaking out. “Oh no.”

“Hint two: She sold the house and most of the stuff inside it.”

“But why?” Cammie just kept blinking. “The whole time I’ve known her, I’ve never heard a word about vineyards. I mean, I know she likes to drink wine, but you don’t need a vineyard for that! Don’t you think this is totally out of character?”

As the sliding-glass doors to the sidewalk opened, Kat turned to face Cammie. “I wouldn’t have called you and begged you to come out here if it wasn’t an emergency.”

“Well, I’m here.”

“And I’m sorry I got you fired.”

“You didn’t get me fired.” Cammie’s shoulders slumped as exhaustion and despair settled in. “I did that all on my own. I was going to lose my apartment, anyway.” She paused. “I can’t afford the rent without Zach.”

“Zach.” Kat practically spit on the concrete. “I never liked that guy.”

“I did.” Cammie sighed, inhaling the exhaust fumes of a dozen idling cars. “And, it turns out, I’m nothing without him. I hate to think like that, but it’s true. Everything fell apart when he left.”

“You were too good for him,” Kat declared. “And he’s going to get what’s coming to him. Trust and believe.” Her expression suggested that she would be more than happy to mete out his karmic retribution with her own two hands.

Cammie thought about the rave review of Zach’s new restaurant she’d just read in the LA Times but said nothing. This trip wasn’t about her personal life. She was here to help her family.

“So, this vineyard Ginger bought. How big is it?”

Kat threw up a hand. “No idea.”

“What kind of wine does it produce?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

Cammie raised her fingertips to her throbbing temples. “Any chance she can still back out?”

“I doubt it. And even if she could legally get out of the contract, she’d refuse.” Kat glowered. “She’s being so stubborn.”

Cammie had to smile. “You don’t take after a stranger.”

Kat’s jaw dropped. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not stubborn; I’m tenacious. Strong willed. Goal oriented.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I would never buy a winery on a whim.”

“But you would get married on a Ferris wheel on a whim.” Cammie followed Kat through the rows of cars in the parking garage. “Speaking of which, where’s Josh?”

“At work.” Kat quickened her pace. “He’s used more than enough of his vacation days on my mom’s craziness. Just last month, he spent two days dealing with a wasp’s nest in her garage.”

“He’s such a good husband.”

“He’s the best.” Kat’s tone was flat. “Really nice, really smart, really nice.”

“You said ‘nice’ twice,” Cammie nearly stumbled as she tried to keep up.

“Because he’s nice squared.” Kat paused at the end of a row of cars.

Cammie studied her cousin’s expression. “Then why does your face look like that?”

Kat dropped her chin, letting her auburn hair hide her face. “Like what?”

“Like there’s more to this story.”

“Let’s get going.” Kat located her sleek black coupe and popped the trunk. “We can talk in the car.”

Cammie and Kat had to work together to wedge her suitcase into the tiny trunk space. “This is ridiculous,” Cammie said. “How do you fit any of your skateboarding gear in here?”

“I don’t.” Kat gave the suitcase a final shove. “I used to rent an SUV when I had to haul stuff to tournaments.”

“Why didn’t you just buy a minivan?”

Kat shuddered. “Minivans are for normal people. Settled, suburban people. Which I am not.”

“Of course.” Cammie noticed a shiny white line on Kat’s bicep. “New scar?”

“Yeah.” Kat paused to roll up her shirt sleeve. “Railslide gone terribly wrong. You like?”

“Very badass,” Cammie assured her with an indulgent smile.

“There’s no minivan that can hold me.” Kat jingled her car keys. “Even though I do, technically, live in the suburbs. And I talked about the weather with the mailman yesterday. And I’m married to a philosophy professor.”

“A very nice philosophy professor,” Cammie reminded her.

“He really is.” Kat’s expression tightened as she slid into the driver’s seat. “So very nice.”

“Ugh.” Cammie pulled her hair off her neck as Kat started the engine and cranked up the car’s air-conditioning. “I forgot how humid it gets out here in the summ...

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Book Description IDEAL ON DREAMSCAPE AUDIO, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged. Language: English . Brand New. Just when Cammie Breyer thinks she s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She s bought a vineyard in Delaware. At Ginger s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat. The three women unite, determined to succeed. There s only one little problem: None of them know the first thing about wine making. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth the wait. Seller Inventory # AAS9781520014975

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Book Description IDEAL ON DREAMSCAPE AUDIO, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged. Language: English . Brand New. Just when Cammie Breyer thinks she s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She s bought a vineyard in Delaware. At Ginger s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat. The three women unite, determined to succeed. There s only one little problem: None of them know the first thing about wine making. But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth the wait. Seller Inventory # AAS9781520014975

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